South Korea ferry disaster: Released transcripts show chaos and confusion in the moments before ferry sinks

Police and victim's families clash as the confirmed death toll reaches 58

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The Independent Online

A full transcript has been released outlining the conversation between those on the Sewol ferry and the Jindo coast guard straight after the ferry began to sink.

The transcripts revealed the chaos and confusion that occurred on both sides as the ship began to sink.

The conversation includes one member of staff on board repeatedly asking the Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Center (VTS) whether help would be on the way, should the ship be evacuated.

The VTS official then replied by saying that efforts should be made to evacuate passengers of the ship and that rescue vessels were being mobilised.

The staff member on the Sewol Ferry then replied that the angle of the ship was too great and passengers could not be moved.

To this the VTS official said: "We don't know the situation very well. The captain should make the final decision and decide whether you're going to evacuate passengers or not."

At the time of the ferry crashing into the rocks that eventually led to the ship sinking, the captain of the vessel, Captain Lee Joon-seok, was not on the ship's bridge and instead the ferry was being steered by an inexperienced third mate.

Once the ferry had crashed, Lee instructed passengers to stay in their rooms, he has subsequently been charged with negligence and violations of maritime law.

The transcripts were released after police had to stop nearly 100 protesting family members earlier in the day, as the confirmed death toll reached 58.

Scuffles broke out when the angry family members were prevented from crossing a bridge that linked them to the mainland by a wall of police and security staff.

The families wanted to reach the Korea's mainland to begin a 260-mile march on the Presidential Blue House in the country's capital Seoul, claiming that they would occupy the presidential residence.

Although there is an understanding that there is little chance of there being anymore survivors, families are keen to recover bodies and are frustrated by the the lack of answers being given by authorities.

On Saturday salvage squads finally managed to break into the submerged ship to begin recovering bodies from the ship.

So far, the confirmed number of bodies to be taken back to land is 58.The release of the transcripts highlights the confusion that followed the sinking of the ship and the reasons behind the frustrations for the families of those still missing.

Lee Woon-geun, father of missing passenger Lee Jung-in, 17, said: "Bring me the body so that I can see the face and hug my child," shouted one woman.

"We want an answer from the person in charge about why orders are not going through and nothing is being done. They are clearly lying and kicking the responsibility to others."

After three days, divers have now entered the ferry and are beginning to recover more bodies trapped in the submerged ferry.

Yesterday, 22 more bodies were found, bringing the confirmed death toll up to 58, with 248 people still missing.

Despite the growing numbers of confirmed deaths, stories continue to emerge of remarkable examples of bravery and selflessness during the disaster.

Today it was reported that a 22-year old member of the Sewol crew gave her own life while trying to save other passengers as the boat sank on Wednesday.

According to reports, Park Ji-young  battled against the rising water to ensure other passengers, that were still in a state of shock, were able to get to safety.

Commenting on the actions, one witness told local media: "I repeatedly asked her why she did not first wear a life jacket? She said she would only get out of the ship after making sure all passengers were out."

One man reportedly managed to save the lives of 20 people when he constructed a 30ft rope out of curtains and pulled the group to safety.

Another passenger, Jeong Chawoong, 17, drowned after giving his life vest to a friend.